Europa League: Best Bets for the Round of 16

Sam Watt
By: Sam Watt
Europa League Draw
Best Bets for the Round of 16

Europe’s second tier European tournament has whittled its numbers down to 16 but just because it plays second fiddle to its big brother the Champions League, it does not mean the action will be any less intense. Some heavyweight clubs across the continent are out to make a major impact.

So, who offers value as the tournament enters its latter stages and who may spring a surprise with no room for error as knockout club football reaches its peak?

Should you Back the Brits?

Chelsea and Arsenal have both progressed through to the Round of 16 and both will have their eyes on the ultimate prize in May.

Both sides are enduring similar seasons, they are both currently suffering a major dip in form following strong opening halves of their respective campaigns, and both will see this tournament as a prime chance to qualify for next season’s Champions League.

Chelsea won the competition in 2013 and are currently the favourites to win the competition, being placed at 4/1 with Arsenal third favourites at 11/2.

The Blues progressed past 23-time Swedish title winners Malmo while Arsenal eventually saw off BATE Borisov, despite a poor 1-0 loss in the first leg in Belarus.

However, such odds for either winning the competition do not seem generous due to their patchy form in recent weeks, fan unrest and a general lack of conviction in their play.

Under-fire Maurizio Sarri is still in situ at Stamford Bridge and his side are at 2/9 to qualify, while the Gunners are at 1/4 to progress past French club Rennes, who knocked out Real Betis.

Both are strong favourites to progress into the last eight although there is not a great deal of value to be found in these outcomes, but going all the way for either still seems a long shot.

Or will Spain reign again?

Six of the last nine winners of the competition have come from La Liga while four of the last five editions have been won by Spanish sides.

Sevilla have won the competition a record five times while Valencia lifted the trophy in 2004 and Villarreal still remain in the competition.

Now known as the ‘Europa League Kings’, Sevilla’s odds of 7/1 to win the competition appear to be worth a bet especially due to the side still sitting fourth in La Liga.

Valencia’s form in the second half of the campaign has taken a turn for the better and 12/1 to win the competition also could be worth a flutter, but relegation-battling Villarreal (20/1) should be avoided.

Indeed, Russian giants Zenit Saint Petersburg are 6/5 to progress past the Yellow Submarine – appearing to be a good bet.

Best of the rest

Arguably the most impressive side left in the competition over the last 18 months is Napoli, who come in as second favourite for the tournament at 5/1 with top bookmakers.

The Naples club were unfortunate to crash out of a tough Champions League group and Carlo Ancelotti’s side are not focused heavily on domestic affairs – as they appear destined to finish second.

Odds of Portuguese giants Benfica – beaten in the 2013 and 2014 finals – to win the competition at 25/1 appear to be worth a lot of attention, particularly as they have a ‘winnable’ last 16 tie against Dinamo Zagreb.

The Game to Watch

Last season’s defeated semi-finalists RB Salzburg face Napoli in the last 16 tie of the round.

Salzburg won all six group stage games and dispensed of Club Brugge in the Round of 32, having been controversially defeated in last season’s semi-finals by Marseille.

Napoli are among the best in the competition but so are the underrated Austrian outfit, and 7/4 for them to qualify over two legs is tempting.

Outside Tip?

Bundesliga side Eintracht Frankfurt made the group stages look easy winning all six of their group games, including the double over Lazio and Marseille.

Eintracht can be backed at 30/1 for the outright tournament win and that is one of the best long-shot bets out there in the Europa League.

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